Creating a Chamber of Commons: A Continuing Discussion

At Cooperation 2015, Michel Bauwens introduced the idea that we should create a Chamber of Commons to protect the commons sort of like the Chamber of Commerce protects business. Here are some rough notes on the idea. We will be discussing these ideas at a On the Table hosted by Sally Duros and Terry Edlin, Tuesday, May 12.

That day and evening, thousands of Chicago-area residents – from Alsip to Zion – will pull up a chair at gatherings to discuss the future of our communities while sharing a meal together. The Chamber of Commons discussion at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square will be one of thousands of locations across the Chicago region hosting similar events where community residents from all ages and backgrounds will come together to put real issues and solutions “on the table” and share their commitments to helping shape our collective future.

Here are the details, please come out and join the discussion:

    Tuesday, May 12
    Time: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
    Location: Red Lion Lincoln Square
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Fish Bowl Conversation

Here is a rough transcription the Cooperation 2015 Opening Circle. Michel Bauwens kicks it off with a snapshot of what he’s thinking about, open value accounting (to correct the current tendency of open platforms to get enclosed and taken over by profit-motivated people), open cooperatives (to further define a good thing). Ben Galewski, Sally Duros and John Stephen Bianucci followed up with their thoughts and projects, and then audience members participated. The Fish Bowl set a great tone for deep conversations the rest of the day.

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Cooperation 2015 in action

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Event Documentation

Notes from Cooperation 2015

Welcome and Introduction

    1. ICA overview – We would like to thank your host, ICA. ICA overview statement from Terry Bergdall CEO
    2. Logistics and Structure
    3. Introduction of Michel Bauwens and the P2P Foundation

Spectogram (where are you on several continuums?)

    1. So I live with peers in a structured way <–> I live alone
    2. working in peer to peer environments <–> working alone or in typical hierarchy. Maybe in the middle is a small organization or a co-working environment.
    3. Transactions. Point A if many of my transactions are sharing/barter/peer exchange <–> and our Point B if you buy or create what you need.


Unpanel (Fishbowl)
What are you excited about that you are working on and thinking about right now?

    1. Michel Bauwens
      1. Open Value Accounting – acknowledging the value of contributions – peer reviewed
      2. Mutual Aid Networks
      3. Making visible what is already happening and building on that
      4. Fair Coop
        1. open contribution to the community and worker share
      5. Care of the Commons
        1. Commons – shared resource, co-managed/governance structure to care for the commons
      6. Open Communities
    2. Ben Galewski
      1. Governance – leadership is scarce, financial resources are not. We need people with intention
      2. Open government hack night
      3. Big data – identify communities that don’t know themselves yet
      4. Prime for Coop: those rich in social returns not always on financial returns, example movie theater
      5. Food Deserts – using data to find cooperative investment opportunities
    3. John Steven Bianucci
      1. Iroquois Valley Farms – Certified B Corporation
      2. Keep the farmer on the land
        1. many farmers are leasing the land they farm on a year to year basis
        2. less than 7% is organic land – so much ecocide
      3. Using safe and patient capital
        1. 21 farms in 7 states
      4. Looking for ways to make this scale
      5. local and regional food systems
      6. We can all agree on good food
    4. Sally Duros
      1. Feeling excited indeed.
      2. working on business models for spirit filled activities
      3. compassion as a fuel
      4. worked in government and journalism
      5. compassion driving change
      6. Adaptive
      7. How are we increasing compassion?
    5. Discussion circle
      1. Michel – compassion means “to feel with”
      2. Co-constructing a shared resource that we all love → commons
      3. is this heavy or light? compassion starts local and expands out
      4. impact investing – measure how?
      5. moved by compassion?
      6. GIIRS – compare social impact
      7. Free Agents network

World Cafe

world cafe 1

What is happening around Peer to Peer engagement in Chicagoland?

Community Fix-it

Collaborative Ward Level Budgeting

ICA – Institute for Cultural Affairs

Open government hack night

Civic Labs – TIFF

Active Transit Alliance

On the Table

Peer Jury

Chicago Sustainable Leaders

Social Enterprise Alliance

Chicago Market

Net Impact

Mutual Aid Network

Rogers Park Participatory Budget

Foresight and Green Drinks

Restorative Justice

Economics of happiness

Be a fool for….

Assembly of the Commons?

Chamber of the Commons?

Block parties

snow plowing

pot lucks



home sharing

access to rides

time bank

Chicago Time Exchange (CTX)

Aging in Place

Clothing swaps

Free Little Library

Start up circles

Slow Money

Nonviolent Communication

The Mankind Project

Next Door

Coalition Impact

The Shift

refugee organizations


Accelerate 77

1647 Blue Maker Space

Maker Spaces

BALLE (biz alliance local living


Art of Hosting

Great Lakes Bioneers

Gathering leaders/change makers

Faith Based Communities

Episcopal Church – sharing time
and efforts with surrounding

Connecting orgs via community


Gift Circles

Shared Harvest

Coworking spaces – The Shift


world cafe 2mankind project

What can you imagine peer to peer engagement creating for Chicagoland?

A story for Chicago

Peace-Circle for bridge building

Compassion with equality

Eliminate toxic charity

Trend of people helping org find their value through

psychological shift away from American “lone ranger”

More nonviolent communication training

horizontal integration not = consolidation, social groups
and values – displacing overly verticalized (topdown)
institutions and values

Cultural value of the commons

Civic infrastructure

Connect on Similarities – benefit from differences

Smart collaborative – park districts host chamber of
commons. Soft Issue, problem isolation

Better connecting in and between neighborhoods

Community ownership – we are all accountable v
individual ownership – only one accountable

the challenge of being vulnerable first

connecting around food and music

storytelling movement

viable system models

encouraging – fostering “unlikely” connections within
and between neighborhoods

hardfought shift in consciousness of communication
listening is a change agent

media – good things to net get spread out

visibility – broadcasting


transition plan – organization – whole person
evolutionary in purpose. What do we need to do?

horizontal integration – silos coming together

general values explicit

Reclaiming locality – know

Impenetrable power structures – “opening to go around”

biological time – twishgt zone

Power of change – cultural

Story of Chicagoimprov

How do you think we can each help get there? Where we can collectively take action to improve equality and quality of life?

Image Shift Work

Storytelling as restorative justice

not ownership but collaboration

Articulating achievable models

Identify your communities that you want to engage first

Transition plan with benchmarks

Yield poverty scarcity consciousness to a more fuller

A movement of story circles that bridges within and
across communities

Consciousness raising so people are more aware of
the response-ability they have

Smart collaborative connection

Chamber of the Commons

Culture value of the commons

neighborhoods create consciousness


meetup group

satisfying more than individual needs

Tools for change:

  • open minds
  • enlightened path
  • transform a culture of violence by teaching children nonviolent practices
  • short and medium term goals
    • reinstitute the public schools that were closed

Gem: people have the same needs and can be helpful
if you just let your voice be heard


More nonviolent communication training

Active Imagination

New consciousness of family




Connection – just BEING together – working with

“Art of Hosting”

Visibility – connected, better mapping

Re-invent the family

Having a one stop shop to get information

  • replicate the CSLN for peer to peer
  • find common ground for local org to connect
  • a transition plan

P2P is informal – not political or commercial

1150 entities working on sustainability in Chicago

  • how to tie them together?
  • exchange of information
  • develop collaborations
  • CSLN the space b/t neighborhoods and city govt
  • more?

world cafe 4world cafe 5

Keynote Chief Listener – Michel Bauwens

    1. Chamber of the Commons
    2. Assembly of the Commons
    3. Commons Festival
    4. Asset Map the marketplace
      1. Owning Our Future – Marjorie Kellie

Closing and Thank you



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Peer Governance Models

How do you organize for wisdom?

Together, Buffer, Semco, Morning Star, Valve, Zappos, Supercell, stretch across three continents, employ 100,000+ people, and bring in more than $20 billion per year. What do they have in common? They all have transitioned to alternative governance models. Whether it’s going to a boss-less work environment, or organizing a workers’ cooperative, peer governance can really work.

Listen to Semco Chairman Ricardo Semler share his perspective on working, learning, and living.


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Open Cooperativism, Peer Production and the Commons

Cooperatives provide a valuable historical background in light of new paradigms in economic organization, peer production and a resurgence and modernization of the concept of the Commons. Given this idea, a group of stakeholders from the these spheres gathered in Berlin in August of 2014 to explore their intersection. A full paper can be downloaded from here.

As an alternative to capitalism, cooperatives world-wide employee 250 million persons (comparable to large multinational corporations), although they only comprise 4.2% of world product. Part of this has to do with a concept of “missing value” the intangibles created between actual material product and the scarcity-instilled market capture.

These institutions are embattled, with larger ones succumbing to capitalist management styles and the constant threat of sell-out/buy-out by commercial corporations. Small ones, being subject to the constraints of the market, cannot offer competitive advances to attract new members. So what is to be done about this?

The commons has always been problematic, with concerns constantly seeking to en-fence them, first with land grabs now with un-thought-out (or undisclosed) monetization of free and open source software. How do we retain the commons for the use of all without succumbing to these pressures?

These and many more questions were explored in the conversations, proposed development of a new open co-operativism was posited as a solution, and even plans for a transition to the new model were discussed. The report by David Bollier and Pat Conaty is well-worth the read.

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Time Banking

Time banks effectively use people’s time and talents as currency for exchanges of value. It’s been effectively used across the world to tackle explicit local issues, such as childcare provision or urban regeneration. They have been successful in delivering small but important local results because they excel at building networks of reciprocal social relations, trust, civic participation and community solidarity. Though the exchange can easily happen across borders, time banks are a true peer-to-peer way to build community locally.

Check out the Chicago Time Exchange to follow what is happening here.

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For Cooperation 2015, we will be using several participatory methods.

We could have gathered a group of speakers to tell you about the potential of peer to peer with specific experts showcasing what is currently being done in Chicago and globally. Instead, we want the process to mirror the process of community coming together, generating wisdom, sharing talent and knowledge, and doing something together that none of us could do alone.

There are many participatory processes we could use to shape the conversation. We could use Art of Hosting methods and specifically World Cafe and Open Space (the most well known participatory methods of group process). We will toss in some other unconference methodologies like a spectogram and an unpanel (fishbowl or Samoan circle).

Our hosts, ICA, are experts in process. You can also learn more about their facilitation training as well as their process work and services!

You may be interested in using more process in your work. Some examples of useful participatory practices for peer to peer engagement include:

What forms of participatory process do you find useful?

What benefits have you received or noticed in using participatory processes?

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Sharing You Are Looking For

The “sharing economy” has already been co-opted by the “let’s extract wealth from everywhere” virus. I guess bottom of the pyramid (BOP) wasn’t paying high enough returns at a fast enough rate.

Listen folks, if it is not peer to peer, but instead has some pyramid where a few people at the top make loads of cash on it, than it is NOT the sharing you were looking for.

This is not the sharing economy you were looking for...

It is not the sharing economy you were looking for…

The sharing you are looking for is about maintaining or improving your quality of life by connecting with peers to optimize your access to the resources and experiences you need and can provide. That is why we talk about Peers Incorporated, a Peer to Peer Society, and the Peer to Peer Foundation.

Standard of Living has been going down, at least in the US, since the 70s. Your money doesn’t go as far. You can still have a good life. Connect with your peers to share. Join us at Cooperation 2015.

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Just What is p2p?

P2P refers to peer-to-peer or person-to-person. In the context of Cooperation2015, it signifies a larger movement or body of thought that we now possess the understanding and technology to reshape our world into a more sustainable, human-oriented set of societies. In this article, I will attempt to list some basics that help define p2p. Here is an interview with Michel Bauwens introducing the concept of p2p.

Here are some primary principles of p2p (abstracted from Characteristics of P2P):

  • Knowledge is open and shared
  • P2P assumes equipotency; every participant has something to offer based solely on their decision to participate.  The value of their participation is subject to communal validation.
  • If there are formal rules, they have to be accepted by the community and they are ad hoc for particular projects.
  • P2P is de-institutionalized; knowledge/activity flows from person to person as opposed to via institutions or organizations. [NOTE: it could be argued that P2P is just another form of institution.  While P2P processes are not entirely structureless, they tend to be flexible structures with internally-generated rules.]
  • P2P is de-commodified; with ‘commons-based peer production’ or P2P-based knowledge exchange more generally, the production does not result in commodities sold to consumers, but in use value made for users.  In other words, the knowledge is free and freely shared, while the service of that knowledge may incur charges.  For example, free and open source sofware may be freely used, but it you need help in installing or customizing it, someone may charge to you for that service.
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About This Site

Cooperation 2015 started as an announcement and resource for a p2p conference that was held at the Institute of Cultural Affairs Greenrise Learning Laboratory in Chicago on February 28, 2015.

A broad spectrum of people interested in alternative economies, cooperatives, sustainability, etc. came together to share our experiences, visions, ideas and to network with each other. Documentation about the event can be found here.

Please take a look around. If this interests you, sign up for the site and we'll let you know about future events and other ways to participate.
Check out Ted Wysocki's (the new CEO at the Institute of Cultural Affairs) blog post about Cooperation2015 on U2CANDO